Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Sports Blogger's Work is Never Done

The college football season kicks off this week and I have not even finished my analysis of  every Division I conference. That is what happens when one gets a late start. I will most likely have my predictions for this week's match ups posted tomorrow; long before I even have the conference standing predictions and analysis up. A breach of etiquette I know and a purist would question whether it is wise to continue conference predictions after the season has begun. They may be right but as I have said before; why let that stop me?  I will take into consideration of course the games that have been played when factoring in the standings predictions and since this is a totally amateur endeavour, the fact that the season has begun really does not matter. Funny thing, when it is all said and done my predictions will prove as accurate as most of those in the business "professionally." I will eat my hat if it is not so.

Big East Conference

After studying the relative merits of most teams in the non BCS leagues, I have finally done a little bit of analysis on arguably the weakest of the BCS conferences. The Big East has some pretty darn good football teams that are somewhat under rated  probably but still, except for perhaps two or three are not up to the level of the SEC, Big XXII, ACC Coastal Division, or even the PAC 10. The ACC raided some of the more high profile teams in the Big East a few years back which in turn caused the Big East to raid some of the better CUSA programs. The Big East gave Temple the boot at about the same time which has turned out to be a boon for the Owl program. When it is all said and done there are probably only two to four teams here that are of true BCS calibre and none at this time that will challenge for the national title. On to the predictions.

1. West Virgina: This year's team looks to me to be the best in conference. They return most starters, although they will have a fresh face at QB. The non conference schedule is pretty light with only LSU posing a problem. They play South Florida in October with Cincinnati and Pitt in November. Look for  4-1 in non conference play and perhaps only one loss in conference play. I bet Rich Rodriguez wishes he had not made the move to Michigan.

2. Pitt: Most publications rate the Panthers as the number one team in the Big East. I disagree. Recent history has shown that this team can get close but can not close the deal on the conference crown. The non conference schedule is tough with the opener at Utah, with Miami and a New Hampshire (a good IAA program) at home. They do meet the fighting Irish also in a road game and that may be a disadvantage. Classless Coach K knows how to beat the Panthers from his years in the Big East. I would look for this squad to go 3-2 in non conference play with victories likely over Florida International, New Hampshire and perhaps Notre Dame. They will likely lose to Miami and Utah. They should be competitive in the Big East with perhaps only two losses. That will depend on their morale after the rough non conference schedule.

3. Connecticut: The Huskies return most starters on offense and a good many on D. They may have what it takes to compete for the Big East title. They will get a boost from their non conference schedule. The only teams that look like they may pose a problem are Michigan (doubtful) and Temple (even less likely). They should have no trouble with the remaining three non conference games. The test will come in conference play. If they can stay healthy and surprise WVU or Pitt then they are have a better than "dark horse" shot at taking the conference title.

4.. Cincinnati: The Bearcats return quite a few players on both offense and defense. Tony Pike is gone but the back up last year stepped in and did a fine job. He will be the starter this year. Butch Jones inherits a team that has a  shot at competing for the top spot again. He is a proven coach and is a winner. With that being said, I think there will be somewhat of a let down and that they will finish in the fourth slot. The demoralizing defeat to Florida in last years Sugar Bowl may still linger in the mind of the players. Perhaps not. It would have been interesting to see if the Cats would have had a better game had Brian Kelly not deserted his team in a lurch. What a classless individual. An exceptional coach with absolutely no class. It is kind of a shame really. At any rate, the non conference schedule is fairly tough with dates at Fresno State and NC State. They also meet the Sooners, IAA Indiana State and Miami of Ohio. It is conceivable that they lose three games here. I will look for them to go 3-2 in non conference play with 2-3 not out of the question. They will have trouble with Pitt, S. Florida, WVU, and perhaps Rutgers or Connecticut. I think they will prevail in some of these games but probably will wind up no better than the fourth spot.

5. Rutgers: Greg Schiano is a good coach and there are those that think he should have moved on to "bigger and better" things when the iron was hot, They have an outside shot at competing for the Big East crown. Doubtful but not out of the question. Still they are a fine football team that is well coached. Their non conference schedule is favorable with only North Carolina the likely problem. The problem comes in conference play. Will they be able to match last years record with only four losses. We will see. They do return key starters on both offense and defence. If anyone falters, they should move up in the standings with again, an outside shot at competing for conference honors.

6. South Florida: The Bulls are another pretty good football team that has a very small shot at finishing number one in conference. The return a good many starters on offense including a very good QB in B.J. Daniels, but perhaps only four on defense. New coach, Skip Holtz, is a proven winner but will he be able to get things together for his first year in the Tampa Bay area? We will see. The non conference schedule is not too bad with the exception of the loss they will take to home after their trip to "Gatorland" and a likely loss to Miami. They should easily wind up 3-2 in non conference play. Like the NJ team above, will they be able to run with the top dogs in the Big East? Time will tell.

7. Louisville: Someone has to wind up in the cellar and I don't thik it will be the Cardinals. Thankfully Kragthorpe is gone and Charlie Strong makes his debut. The reason I did not pick these guys for the last spot is the number of starters that return. Granted, the team was 4-8 last year but they retain more experienced players than the team that will finish in the dungeon. They should be able to handle some of the teams in non conference play but that is not a given. Games with Kentucky and Oregon State are likely losses and Arkansas State has been known to surprise the big boys of the BCS. The game with Memphis should be a toss up. They also meet IAA Eastern Kentucky. They will probably not be able to keep up with most teams Big East play. How the mighty have fallen. Kragthorpe had some  success at Tulsa but could not keep the magic going in Louisville. Will Coach Strong be able to make a difference? Impossible to say at this point.

8. Syracuse: Someone has to finish last and I predict it will the the Orange. They lose quite a few key players on both sides of the ball and that may not be such a bad thing. This looks like a total rebuild. Coach Marrone may be able to have some success here if he is allowed a few years to do so. In today's world of college football that is unlikely. The non conference schedule is the one bright spot. All the games with the exception of Boston College may result in a win. Well Washington may be a bit of problem. A few years ago I would have said that IAA Maine would be difficult also, but that program has fallen off some in recent years. They should be either 4-1 or 3-2 in non conference play but will not be able to compete in the league. If they win more than one or two league games that would be an accomplishment.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mid American Conference

I have not done much study on this conference this year. The college season is upon us and I got a late start accumulating the magazines and taking a serious look at the websites devoted to the college game. Therefore I will  not predict the standings for the entire league but will highlight a handful of the top dogs.

Temple: This team was booted from the Big East a while back and found a home in the Mid American Conference. It looks like they will be competitive here or at least as long as Al Golden is at the helm. They return a decent number of starters on both offense and defense and should be able to edge out the Bobcats to take the number one slot in the MAC East. The non conference slate is brutal. The Owls open with last years IAA champ Villanova and following up with Connecticut and Penn State. They also meet West Point which is possibly the only winnable non conference game. Despite having an over all losing record at Temple (who doesn't?), it will probably not be long before Al Golden has some money thrown his way and moves on.

Ohio: Frank Solich does a commendable job at this small school. Remember a few years back when he was run off at Nebraska after some decent seasons. The Huskers have not found real success since but that is changing fast with Coach Bo in charge there. Another story perhaps, but suffice to say that Solich could have continued to be successful at a higher level than the MAC, but he appears to be happy here.  Barring a meltdown, the Bobcats have a good chance of 3-1 in non conference play with the only sure loss coming from the Buckeyes. If Temple falters in conference play, then look for Ohio to move into the top spot in the east.

Northern Illinois: This team should take the top spot in the MAC West hands down. They are probably the best team in conference and should scare a good BCS team. Jerry Kill is an exceptional coach and will possibly (but not likely) have this team in the top 20 before it is all said and done. They do return some key starters on offense and return most of the defense. Their non conference slate is fairly tough (for a MAC school), but it is not without question that they will finish at worst 2-2. It is entirely possible that they could run the table in non conference play. I would look for them to lose no more than perhaps one, two at most in conference play and wind up at the top of the heap in the MAC West.

Central Michigan: This school is supposed to have a down year but I look for them to be number two in the West and perhaps even sneak into the top spot. Dan Lefevour is gone and there is a new coaching staff in place. This alone should signal an off year. I think that this squad will surprise a few people just to show them that Lefevour alone a team does not make. They probably will end up no better than 2-2 in non conference play and perhaps as low as 1-3, but should still be able to stay a step ahead of a good most of their MAC opponents except Temple and Northern Illinois. The do not meet Ohio this year but could possibly also have some trouble with Western Michigan and Toledo.

Above are the teams I chose to feature in the MAC this season. It was a toss up whether I would go with Toledo or Central Michigan for the second spot in the MAC West. If Big Tom Amstutz was still the HC of Toledo I would have gone with the Rockets. I am just not sure if Tim Beckman is the man for the job in NW Ohio. Time will tell.

Mountain West Conference

The MWC is right on the cusp of becoming a BCS conference. Well more accurately it was right on the cusp. With Utah leaving for the PAC 10, any hope of being recognized by the BCS may (or may not be) be out the window. Some of the more powerful WAC teams will bolt for the MWC which may help their case. This will all get pretty confusing and interesting before it is all said and done. Oh yes, BYU may or may not leave the conference for the WAC (in all sports but football) and play on the gridiron as an independent. I have not seen a report on that in the last day or two. For this year, at any rate, the conference remains intact and the top three teams are pretty easy to predict although in which order is not so easy a task. The remainder of the schools, with the exception of New Mexico, will be shuffling for the fourth spot. Air Force looks to be the team that will fill that billet and go to a decent bowl game.  On to the predictions.

1. TCU: There is no real reason that TCU should not again take the first spot. They return a lot of starters from a team that was fully BCS ready a year ago. The non conference schedule is pretty light with only two BCS schools to face and one from IAA. They must watch the exceptional QB play QB at Baylor and be careful that a up and coming SMU squad does not sneak up on them. If they do they should go 4-0 in non conference play. In conference play they of course face the Utes, Falcons, and Cougars. One of these squads may have a good day and trip them up but I doubt it.

2. Utah: The Utes are another team that is BCS caliber. Their non conference schedule, while somewhat tougher than that of TCU, is manageable. They will need to watch out for a very good Pittsburgh Panther squad in the opener. The Panthers are capable of taking this game, but other than that they should run through the remaining non conference games. The do meet Notre Dame on Nov 13, but unless the Irish are hands down better than the past few years, the Utes should prevail. They return a good many starters on offense, but the defense may need some work. It would be better if they had a tune up game or two before meeting the Panthers in the opener. Utah may not have what it takes to knock off TCU, but should be able to handle BYU, Air Force and the rest of the conference.

3.BYU: The Cougars look like they will finish in the third slot. I think it would be difficult to knock off either Utah or TCU. They apparently have a Freshman phenom QB in Jake Heaps, but will he be the starter and if so, will he be ready for major college play? The non conference schedule is pretty manageable with only Florida State and perhaps Nevada causing any difficulty. They will probably go 3-1 in non conference play with Florida State again taking them down. They will finish third here and go to a solid bowl game.

4.Air Force: The Falcons are well coached and have had some success of late. The Air Force Academy usually fields good, but not great teams. They are certainly good enough to go bowling rather consistently. The non conference schedule includes the service schools, of course, and they do meet Oklahoma. Additionally they host IAA Northwestern State of the Southland Conference. The Oklahoma game will likely result in a loss as well as the contest with the Naval Academy. The return a decent amount of starters on both offense and defense including Tim Jefferson but do not have the power to challenge for the top spot in this league.

5. San Diego State: I will go out on a limb here and pick the Aztecs to take the fifth spot in conference. This school should field competitive teams year in and year out but for some reason it just does not happen. This could be the year that they finish at least fifth and perhaps sneak into the fourth spot and play in the post season. The climate and the "niceness" of the city dictate that they should be better able to attract quality players and at least play on the same level as the other powerful non BCS school in the state; Fresno. It can hardly be argued that San Diego is much nicer than Fresno. The area is much nicer than the monstrosity just up the road and it is hard to see why they are not able to snag some BCS level blue chippers. Oh well, what is is what is. This year the Aztecs will be challenged by a home date with the Missouri Tigers but should be able to handle the remaining non conference slate. If the cards fall right perhaps they can challenge for the fourth spot. Any thing above that would be unlikely.

6. Wyoming: The Cowboys are not a team that anyone in conference should overlook. That means even the top three. The reason I have picked them for the sixth spot is that their non conference slate is brutal with a trip to Austin and hosting Boise State. Both of those games will be losses. They should be able to handle Toledo and IAA Southern Utah. They do return a bunch of starters and probably should have been considered for the fourth or certainly fifth spot, but I have my doubts about HC Dave Christensen. If every thing fall right these guys may end up bowling again but as of now I will pick them to play below their potential and finish no better than 6-6.

7. UNLV: It is rather hard whether the Rebs or CSU should be picked here. The two squads appear to be fairly even. CSU has fallen off tremendously since Sonny L. left but the Rebs very rarely have any real success. This year CSU returns a decent number of starters but the non conference slate is tough. Wisconsin is a sure loss and Nevada, Hawaii, and a surprisingly good Idaho squad are certainly not easy games. UNLV will probably take at least one game from the WAC but will likely end up 1-3 in non conference play. This team is probably in no danger in finding themselves in the cellar, but have no hope of challenging the top teams either.

8. Colorado State: This school used to be a team that was dangerous for any opponent. No more. They do not appear to retain enough starters on offense. The non conference schedule is pretty difficult with the the Rams opening with the Buffs. They will not beat them this year.  The Buffs should not be taken seriously by a good team, but the Rams are not very good. They also meet Idaho and Nevada along with Miami of Ohio. Like UNLV I predict they will take one non conference game and wind up 1-3.  Bet they miss Coach Sonny.

9. New Mexico: Another very hard place to win. The Lobos are a hard luck team that returns a number of starters. The very same starters that went 1-11 last year. They have a rather tough non conference schedule with the only possible wins being against UTEP (doubtful) and NMSU (possible). If they won these two they would double their winning record of 2009. Likely they will go 0-4 in non conference play, or at best 1-3. In conference play they may be able to take CSU  and possibly UNLV on a good day but that is probably about it. This team is light years away from even competing at mid level in conference. They may have trouble being competitive in a fair IAA league.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Conference USA East

Conference USA East is not a real easy division to pick this year. ECU has a new coach and a new system and has additionally lost some key players. UCF is unpredictable and USM can usually be counted on to have a pretty decent team. Marshall may or may not be a factor, it is probable that Memphis is in complete rebuild mode, and UAB is, well, UAB. That being said let us take a look at how I believe the CUSA East will play out this year.

1. USM: I will go with Larry Fedora's club to take the number one slot and meet Houston in the CUSA Championship. History has shown that the Golden Eagles put a good, but not great, team on the field year after year. The recruiting base is good with a lot of kids coming to play for a quality club that may not quite be ready for SEC play. They also can get kids that can play in the SEC on occasion as the two other D1 Mississippi schools are not usually contenders for a SEC championship, while USM can never be counted out in CUSA. There are also no IAA schools in the state that are likely to snatch too many blue chip players. The SWAC is interesting football but can not compete in recruiting top notch talent. The conference schedule is a bit dangerous with contests with UCF, Tulsa, East Carolina and Houston. The non conference sked is manageable with only South Carolina, Kansas and just perhaps Prairie View posing a problem. It is not out of the question that they could run the table in non conference play or perhaps go no better than 2-2.

2. UCF: This school has a lot going for it. An attractive location and a very good recruiting base. There is a lot of competition in state with four other D1 teams that have the potential to be powerhouses. There are two Sun Belt squads in Florida also but there are plenty of quality players to go around. George O'Leary has been a bit inconsistent here but should have enough in the tank to make a run at CUSA East. The Knights do meet Houston, ECU, and Southern Miss in conference play but they should go at least 2-2 in non conference play. The potential to sneak up on either Kansas State or NC State not out of the question.

3. ECU: This is supposed to be a down year for the Pirates after having won the CUSA Championship last year. Skip Holtz is gone to USF and Ruffin McNeil assumes the helm. It is interesting that the last two coaches at ECU have had pretty good success before moving on to "bigger and better things." Coach McNeil states that this is a destination job for him. We will see. McNeil should have been given the position at Texas Tech, a fact that will become apparent shortly, but he was not. He appears to be happy at his alma mater and that will most likely translate into success. Whether or not it will happen this season is in question. The non conference sked is pretty rough with trips to Va. Tech and N. Carolina. They also host NC State and Navy. It is possible that all four games will fall into the loser column. They may be able to take one with my guess NC State being the most vulnerable. They meet Tulsa, USM, SMU, and UCF in conference play. Picking this team third may be a bit of a stretch, but I think McNeil will be a winner here.

4. Marshall: The days of the Herd being giant killers have long passed. Coach Doc Holliday likely has his work cut out for him and time will tell if he can be successful. There non conference schedule is very tough with Ohio State and WVU on the schedule. They also meet Ohio and Bowling Green out of the MAC. Perhaps they may be able to take Bowling Green but that is probably it. Look for them to go 0-4 or 1-3 in non conference play. The conference schedule features UCF, Southern Miss, East Carolina and SMU. At least they are spared Houston.  No easy feat to end up with a winning record this year.

5. Memphis: The Tigers also sport a new coach in Larry Porter. This is his first year as a head coach in the college ranks but he appears to have the experience and know how to get the job done. He is also and alum and that helps matters a good bit. This looks like it will be a rebuilding year as Tommy West left the place pretty bare. Memphis is also in SEC country and it is hard to recruit blue chippers but not totally out of the question. Memphis is considered the bastard child of Tennessee and people in the area know it. This gives the town somewhat of a siege mentality which may translate into some area players choosing to stay home. The Tigers have a pretty tough non conference slate with games against Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee and Louisville. Perhaps they may take one of these with Louisville or Mississippi State being the most probable. It is unlikely though to be honest and I expect them to go 0-4 in non conference play. They also meet all of the top teams in CUSA save SMU. It will be a tough year for the Tigers.

7. UAB: This program is as tough as any place to recruit blue chip talent. With the Crimson Tide, and Auburn being in state it is almost impossible. If that is not enough there is the University of Troy to contend with. Some pretty good IAA programs are in the state with Jacksonville State being probably the best. Even D2 has North Alabama which will be making their presence known shortly in that division with Tommy Bowden at the helm. All of this translates into losing seasons for the Blazers. The school has really no tradition and very little public support which also is a problem. Tough place no doubt. The non conference schedule is pretty tough with sure losses at Troy and Tennessee and probable losses at Mississippi State and Florida Atlantic. They are spared Houston, but play the rest of the power teams in CUSA. Look for a two or perhaps three (four?) win season here.

Conference USA West

This year it looks like the West will be the more powerful division in CUSA. Houston may well have a shot at running the table and SMU will be a factor with June Jones at the helm. Tulsa is a dark horse but can not be discounted. This conference, much like the other Non-BCS leagues, has trouble getting the respect in the world of D1 ball but this year may well be the year that BCS schools begin to fear scheduling some of the top tier schools in this conference. On to the predictions.

1. University of Houston: These Coogs may begin to get the respect that the Coogs of BYU have earned. Kevin Sumlin is a darn good coach and the QB is arguably one of the best in the nation. The non conference schedule is favorable with only Texas Tech and perhaps UCLA posing a problem. They do also meet with UCF and USM, two of the better teams in CUSA East.
2. SMU" The Mustangs are coached by June Jones who is as good as they come. Remember he turned the Hawaii program into a winner that could compete at the BCS level. Should the Cougars falter, SMU will be a the team that will take their number one slot in the West.
3. Tulsa: This team has had some success recently but fell off some last year. Kragthorpe and now Graham both produced winning teams here and these guys are a dark horse for the top slot. The non conference schedule is not too touch with dates against Bowling Green, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and IAA Central Arkansas. In the fairly recent past, it would be conceivable that the Golden Hurricane would  take them all, but probably not this year. While Coach Graham is a winner there are some character issues that are bothersome and character in a coach is vastly important.
4. UTEP: It is difficult to be a consistent winner in EL Paso. It is in the middle of nowhere and is considered somewhat of a bastard child in the state of Texas. Much the same as Memphis is considered the red headed stepchild by those in Tennessee. With that being said, Mike Price has done a pretty commendable job here. The QB had an off year in 09, but should still be considered a potent threat. Mike Price has had his character issues in the past, but has been paying penance at UTEP with no complaints and that speaks volumes.. The non conference schedule is not too tough with only the game with the Hogs being a sure loss. If Tulsa falters at all, UTEP will be nipping at their boot.
5. Rice: Across town from the University of Houston is Rice University. This little school is considered on par academically with the Ivy League minus all the baggage associated with those schools. It is a difficult place to win to be sure. Rice has some uncompromising educational standards that must be met. Coach Bailiff has done a fair job here but the jury is still out on whether he is the man for the job. The non conference schedule is brutal with perhaps a win over North Texas the only bright spot. That is not a sure bet as the Owls face the Mean Green the week after meeting the Longhorns.
6. Tulane: Someone has to be last and again it appears it will be Tulane. The Green Wave are well coached but Tulane is just a very very hard place to win. New Orleans(and the schools in the region) have perhaps not recovered from Hurricane Katrina and the academic standards are, much like Rice and to some extent Tulsa, pretty stringent. This school is probably on par academically with Duke and there is a lot in common. Tulane is not by any stretch of the imagination a football power, but it seems that it could conceivably become one in basketball. If Tulane plays better than expected then Rice will take their slot at the bottom of  CUSA West.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Western Athletic Confernce

Predicting the winner of this conference is easy. The Blue Field Broncs are the team to beat and it is very very difficult for a WAC team accomplish this feat. It is difficult for a top tier BCS team to do so also. The 2nd tier is a little more difficult to figure with some pretty good teams in the mix. This group would be fairly to very competitive in CUSA. The last tier teams are on the same level as perhaps the Sun Belt and perhaps one or two would not even be real competitive in a good IAA league. This phenomena gives the conference a black eye and other than Boise State and perhaps Fresno State and  Hawaii (in good years) it is not considered worth following. Some football "purists" will insist that even Boise State does not deserve a shot at the BCS "National Championship" simply because of league affiliation. That argument disregards the fact that the Broncs in particular tend to clean the clock of top tier BCS squads and the Bulldogs tend to keep such games very very close. That being said let us move on to the predictions.

1. Boise State: This squad should again win the WAC hands down and indeed run the table. It would be an anomaly if one of the their WAC opponents sneak up on them. For the Broncos to have a shot at the "National Championship" game or indeed any other BCS Bowl they will need to win all of their games, both conference and non-conference. The only team that seems like they may be able to spoil this run are the Hokies of VA. Tech.

2. Fresno State: The second tier as noted earlier is much harder to predict. Pat Hill has the experience and this season the non conference schedule is a bit lighter than in years past. They do meet Ole Miss and Cincinnati, but should have a decent shot at knocking off at least one of them. Pick the Bulldogs for the second spot and a decent post season bowl.

3. Nevada: Some publications pick the Wolfpack of being the only squad with a decent shot of taking down the Broncs. I don't think so. I will pick Nevada to finish in the third slot with a shot at a decent bowl game. Their non conference schedule is fairly tough with a trip to BYU and hosting the Golden Bears of CA. The remaining non conference schedule is manageable.

4. Idaho: Idaho for the fourth spot? Yes. The Vandals had a very surprising season last year and I think that coach Akey will field a competitive team, They do have a sure loss at Nebraska early in the season and a tough game with Western Michigan but the rest of the non conference schedule is manageable. They have a top notch QB in Nathan Enderle and may well again qualify for a bowl game.

5. Louisiana Tech: A new coach with a new system. Coach Dykes will attempt to move his squad into the top tier of the WAC in what may (or may not be) one of the last seasons in this conference. It is pretty tough to win consistently at Tech but they may find a way to go bowling this year.

6. Hawaii: If June Jones was still here I would probably put these guys in the number two or three spot in the conference. Jones has gone onto SMU, where he will be successful, and the Warrior program has suffered since his departure. The Warriors may surprise me and move up in the standings but it is hard to see how at this point. The good news is that their non conference schedule is manageable and their opener with USC will tell a lot. If they stay competitive in this game then they may well get a huge confidence boost which might be enough to propel them to a bowl game.

7.. Utah State: The Aggies will not be able to stay in the top tier of teams. They appear to have some talent, but will probably have a tough time winning any of their non conference games. The one bright spot appears to be against IAA Idaho State but a victory here is not a given.

8.. San Jose State: Mike MacIntyre takes over the helm at this hard luck football school. I am really surprised that they have not dropped the program but they still are out there trying every week. They definitely have some "payday" sure loss games in their non conference schedule that will result in losses. They will not be able to compete with Bama, Wisconsin and Utah. It is not a given that they will be victorious over their two IAA opponents also. They may be so beat up that by the time they get to the WAC schedule, they may not have much left in the tank.

9. New Mexico State: This group of Aggies appear to not have the firepower to compete successfully in the WAC. It is hard to win here to be sure but they may be able to pull out two or three WAC victories. The non conference schedule is not horribly difficult and they may possibly surprise someone. Their best chance may be against UTEP or the rivalry game with the Lobos.

This conference appears to be in transition with Boise State, Fresno and Nevada making the move to the MWC. There is talk of Louisiana Tech looking around for a new home also. To survive in D1 they may need to raid the IAA ranks or perhaps even consider moving down a notch into IAA. Time will tell.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Now what is up with BYU?

It is now being reported that BYU may now stay in the MWC. Who knows how this will all turn out?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sun Belt Conference

The Sun Belt is a Division I conference although like the WAC, CUSA, MWC and Mid Am is not in the BCS. Of course the BCS system is a scam without doubt, but we will save that perhaps for another time. This conference of mostly smaller regional schools has improved in recent years to the point that many teams here are on par with some of the lower level BCS schools. I place the top four teams on about the same level  as Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Baylor, Texas A&M, Washington State - you get the point. It perhaps has more in common with a pretty good IAA conference than one that is in Division I probably, but the football is improving and every year it seems there are some pretty stunning upsets of schools in the BCS. Last years' Cajuns victory over Kansas State is a case in point - and who could possibly forget the ULM victory over BAMA a couple of years back? That victory probably was more stunning than the Appalachian State smoking of Michigan. That year Appalachian State would have easily been a top 25 D1 team. With that being said let us move on to my predictions for this years Sun Belt Conference race.

1. Troy Trojans: I pick this school to be the top dog in the Sun Belt, Some other publications predict MTSU, and probably for good reason, but I will go with Troy here. It is hard to argue with the success that coach Larry has been able to bring to the program. Their non conference schedule is manageable with none of the games being "sure" losses.
2. Middle Tennessee: This school may be ready for the top slot in conference. They had a very good team last year and all indications are that they will be just as good this. Most publications pick the Blue Raiders to be the class of the conference. They return most starters on offense and over half on D. The non conference schedule is not too tough with only Georgia Tech being a "sure" loss. Last year this team beat Maryland, but the Yellow Jackets are an entirely different cat.
3. Arkansas State: After the top two teams - the middle of the pack appears to be pretty much a toss up. Coach Roberts does a fine job in the state of Arkansas where as far as fans go, there is nothing but the Razorbacks. That makes it difficult to recruit "Blue Chip" players but Roberts usually puts a pretty good product on the field. The non conference slate is pretty tough and all games are likely losses but the Red Wolves should have enough in the tank to wind up taking the third slot in conference.
4. Florida Atlantic" The Owls are coached by the legendary Howard S and that is one reason that I have picked them to be number four. They lost the exceptional QB Rusty Smith and it will be interesting to see how they do without him. Their non conference slate is darn tough (they meet Texas) and they only play four home games. It might be a bit of a stretch to place them in the fourth spot but with Coach Howard in control; anything can happen.
5. University of Louisiana: The Cajuns are also led by a darn fine coach in Rickey Bustle. It is exceptionally hard to recruit in this state with LSU being an hour down the road, two other D1 teams in state and one very good IAA program. That being said Bustle has done a fine job but the Cajuns have lost too many starters to compete for the top spot. Their non conference schedule is by no means a cake walk either. They may end up being bowl eligible, but will probably not get an invite.
6. WKU: Most publications predict that the Hilltoppers will finish at the bottom of the heap, but I am going out on a limb and pick them a cut above that. Willie Taggert will prove to be a very good coach and when he was QB here the Hilltoppers were a IAA power. Look for a surprise win or two that will keep them out of the cellar.
7. FIU: Florida International may be ready this year to surprise a few folks also. Mario Cristobal will in time prove to be a very good HC but the non conference sked may wear these guys out when competing in conference. The Panthers may have a shot vs Maryland and perhaps Texas A&M but the chances are rather slim.
8. ULM: The race to the bottom will likely be between the Warhawks and North Texas. Somebody has to be at the bottom and I will predict that it will not be the boys from Monroe. New coach Todd Berry is a proven loser but there may be enough left over players from the last "administration" to keep them out of the cellar.
9. North Texas: This school was a Sun Belt power in the early years but dropped off drastically in the last few. Todd Dodge has proven to be a loser and that is the reason I have picked them for the cellar. This school should be able to more than hold its own in the Sun Belt even with a lot of recruiting competition in state. Texas along with Florida, California and the Pennsylvania/Ohio axis is prime football recruiting ground. This school also is quite large and very near a large city which should help matters. There is no reason why the Mean Green should not be in the top two or three in conference every year. The only explanation can be the coaching staff.

All in all look for this conference to take a few games from the big boys but there will be only two in post season. Looks like it will Troy and MTSU again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Changes On The Way

It appears that there are going to be more changes out west in the college game. It has been reported that Fresno State and Nevada have joined the Blue Field Boys and will be taking their act to the MWC. That certainly leaves the WAC in a precarious position, at least with their football programs. Strangely, BYU is apparently going to bolt for the WAC in all sports but football and play the gridiron game as an independent. Are they prima donnas like Notre Dame? It appears so. There has also been speculation that UTEP will move to the WAC and that Louisiana Tech will leave the WAC for CUSA. The Louisiana Tech move would make sense from a geographical standpoint. It would probably be better for them to join the Sun Belt and perhaps even apply for membership into the Big Twelve. Probably those that manage the Tech program may believe that they are somewhat a cut above the Sun Belt, and it is honestly doubtful that the Big Twelve would show much interest. With Colorado and Nebraska leaving the Big Twelve I would look for an invite to be given to TCU and perhaps the University of Houston. Both are quality programs with TCU being a legitimate BCS Bowl contender and UH aspiring to be. UTEP moving to the WAC? Not sure if that is a good idea. It is hard to win in El Paso to be sure and the Miners would probably find they would be more competitive in the Western Athletic. But will the WAC even exists in couple of years? Most likely the WAC will find some way to survive as a Division I football conference as kind of a western version of the Sun Belt. They may look to bring a school or two up from IAA. Northern Arizona, Idaho State and perhaps one of the Cal State schools may be a good fit. I would not discount Montana being interested. It is a quality IAA program and quite often fields a team that might find itself in the top 25 (or pretty darn close) if they were in Division I.
I will wager that in three years that there will be a vast amount of shifting in the conference ranks. Wonder where all that will lead?
You might notice that I do not use the terms BCS and FCS to designate the two major divisions of the NCAA football ranks. I much prefer to use the old Division I and Division IAA.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The 2010 College Football Journey Begins

Well as promised I have decided to branch off from my main blog and create a blog dedicated to the college game. I enjoy this sport probably more than all others combined. Last year I did a pretty fair job of picking winners and offering some amateur analysis and hope to improve some this year. I got a late start on studying the college game this year and only recently began to do some research. I will have my conference predictions out shortly and at the end of the season we will see if it is accurate.
Go Cajuns!!! Ayeeeeeeh!